CONTROVERSIAL businessman Jack Darrell Henry has boasted he can win council tax reductions for clients.
Now he claims he has the power to put the banding back up AFTER people have secured reductions.
Mr Henry’s Huddersfield-based firm Reband (UK) Ltd was shut down in the public interest in September.
The Government’s Insolvency Service wound up the firm after it was revealed the company took £200,000 in up-front fees from 1,167 householders in six months – but was successful in just seven cases.
The Examiner can reveal that despite his limited company being shut down – and despite a suspended prison sentence hanging over him – Mr Henry continues to operate.
He is now trading as Household Claims which gives an address in High Street, Potters Bar, Hertfordshire.
A banned director, Mr Henry cannot run a limited company but is not prevented from running other forms of business.
Mr Henry is now threatening legal action against Michael Hodge, 78, and wife Kathleen, 71, who he claims owes them money for a successful revaluation appeal.
And if they don’t pay up Mr Henry has threatened to prepare a case to have the council tax INCREASED again.
Mrs Hodge said: “I can’t believe the cheek of the man.
“He did nothing for 18 months then expects to get paid for it.
“We might have been gullible to fall for it in the first place but does he think we are stupid as well?”
Mr and Mrs Hodge paid £145 to another of Mr Henry’s companies, Council Tax Review, in July 2010 after a salesman called at their three-bedroomed semi.
The salesman promised that an appeal to reduce their council tax band would be made within eight weeks.
When she had heard nothing after 10 weeks Mrs Hodge rang but says she was fobbed off.
Every few weeks she contacted the firm again without success.
After about a year she demanded her money back, again to no avail.
In January this year Mrs Hodge contacted the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) in Hull and in March was told by the VOA that her appeal had been successful and the band would be lowered from C to B.
The couple subsequently received a back-dated refund of £1,710.20 from Kirklees Council.
Now Mr Henry is claiming his 15% commission and is chasing the couple for the cash.
In a five-page letter, seen by the Examiner, Mr Henry claims the couple have received “approximately” £2,679 and claims a commission of £401.85.
He says his firm spent a great deal of time on the appeal but adds: “We do not wish to fall out with you and as a gesture we are prepared to discount the invoice by 35% to settle this matter in full and final settlement.”
The letter arrived in the post on December 15 and demanded payment of £261.20 just two days later.
Helpfully, Mr Henry also provided his NatWest bank account details.
On the next page headed: “What happens next if payment is not received” Mr Henry warns that council tax bandings can go “up as well as down.”
The letter goes on: “We have incurred costs and we will chase monies as explained earlier in court but what we are also preparing is a case to have your council tax banding increased again.
“This is a simple process for us and the Valuation Office Agency welcome this kind of information as it helps them generate more revenue.
“Once this has been submitted your banding will be increased and the refund that you have received will be ‘clawed back’ by the local council when the bandings are put back up, via your council tax account.
“So please reconsider your position, we do not want to fall out with you over unpaid bills. Please pay our bill as instructed or we will instigate action to put your bandings back up.”
Mrs Hodge said she refused to be intimidated and added: “What he is doing is nothing short of blackmail.
“Some elderly people would just cave in and pay up but not us. He needs to be stopped.”
Mrs Hodge said she was sure it was she and not Mr Henry who had won the appeal.
She wrote a detailed letter explaining why her home should be in a lower band, pointing out that planned development at the back would destroy the open view.
Mrs Hodge also told how a man chasing the alleged debt had called at their home. The couple have reported the matter to police.
They have also complained to West Yorkshire Trading Standards, which successfully prosecuted Mr Henry earlier this year.
Last January Mr Henry was given a nine-month suspended prison sentence after admitting 14 charges of breaching consumer protection regulations.
Mr Henry told the Examiner his firm had submitted three appeals on behalf of Mr and Mrs Hodge. Two had been rejected and a third was still outstanding.
“This happens all the time,” he said. “We do all the work and then clients come in at the end and think it is they who have been successful. But that’s not the case.
“Then when we ask for money they are squeaking and try to find a way not to pay.
“The main reason people don’t pay is that they say it says in the papers that I am a crook and I have run off with all the money.”
Mr Henry denied his letter amounted to “blackmail” or was threatening and added: “Good credit management is good housekeeping. I am collecting my outstanding debts.
“We have vetted it with our solicitors and they are happy with it.”
On his threat to have council tax bands put back up, he said: “If you have your roof done and don’t pay they will come and take your roof back off. It’s the same with a car. If you don’t pay it is repossessed.”
Mr Henry said he knew of 50 cases where council tax bandings had been reduced and then put back up.
Asked if he had taken any clients to the Small Claims Court, Mr Henry said he was “waiting for a date”.
Asked how many clients he was chasing for money, he replied: “Enough”.
Mr Henry at first denied he had sent anyone to Mr and Mrs Hodge’s home then added: “It is not illegal to knock on a door to chase money.”
Mr Henry said he was “100% happy” that he had rebanded the Hodges’ home.
“We are still here and we are going nowhere,” he added.
“We have a new product preparing for a national launch. We have got past all this nonsense.”
THE Valuations Office Agency (VOA) rubbished Mr Henry’s claims that he could have a recently-reduced band put back up.
A spokesman said: “It doesn’t work like that.
“If the VOA has made a decision they won’t go back on it unless there is fresh evidence or big changes have been made to the property.
“We have a duty to ensure the public is paying the correct amount.”
In a statement a spokesman added: “The VOA has responsibility for correcting any inaccurate council tax bands when they are brought to our attention.
“If a taxpayer believes they are in the wrong band then all they have to do is contact us and we will review the banding – this service is free.
“If we agree that a band is inaccurate then we will change it.
“The VOA does not benefit financially from any council tax banding increases where they occur.”
The statement added: “While we cannot comment on individual cases, the VOA recently published advice for customers of Reband UK Ltd on our website.
“In addition, if a taxpayer has a complaint about the activities of an agent they can contact their local Trading Standards Service for advice.
“Local councils (billing authorities) set council tax rates based on the valuations we provide.
“While the band of the taxpayer or neighbouring properties could go up or down, any increase would only take effect from the day the band review was complete, whereas band reductions can be backdated.
“The VOA has also published information advising taxpayers to be wary of giving money or bank details to cold callers.”